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Schoonover Professor Lynn Harter applies health communication theory to life

Apr 29, 2013

Photos by Megan Westervelt

Schoonover Professor Lynn Harter applies health communication theory to life


By Kerry Tuttle

ATHENS, Ohio (April 29, 2013)—Dr. Lynn Harter, the Steven and Barbara Schoonover Professor of Health Communication in the School of Communication Studies, focuses her research, teaching and service on the practical application of health communication theory.

“I emphasize the need to move between theory and life. Students are able to move between theoretical ideas encountered and stories about how we live,” said Dr. Harter. “I want students to leave their desk in the classroom in order to realize their import.”

As Harter quotes from a favorite author John LeCarre, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Using funds from her professorship, Dr. Harter lets students exercise learning in realistic environments and serve a larger purpose by giving them the opportunity to travel, analyze data and participate in fieldwork. For her 2010 feature-length documentary project about the humanizing ways of caring for adolescents with cancer and their families, “The Art of the Possible,” she allowed 100 undergraduate and 30 graduate students to contribute to the research process, while using funds from the Schoonover Professorship to leverage the cost of the documentary.

“The Steven and Barbara Schoonover Professorship has created the space necessary for me to meaningfully engage with my advisor, Lynn Harter, in her ongoing research projects and refine my own interests,” said Stephanie Ruhl, a graduate teaching assistant in the School of Communication Studies. 

The professorship was created through an endowment provided by Steven and Barbara Schoonover and provides financial support to a Communication Studies faculty member who is involved in projects within the area of health communication.

“In general, the Schoonover Professorship has allowed me to increase the scope and societal significance of my research,” said Dr. Harter.

In addition to “The Art of the Possible,” Dr. Harter published a book this year titled “Imagining New Normals. A Narrative Framework for Health Communication” and just launched a series called “Hometown Heroes” on WOUB’s Conversations from Studio B that spotlights individuals positively contributing to the region.

Dr. Harter practices engaged scholarship by using her research and creative activity in partnership with community-based organizations to raise meaningful questions together. In partnership with Tom Hodson of WOUB and Patty Mitchell of PassionWorks, she is beginning a new documentary that explores the role of art therapy in fostering well-being in clinical and non-clinical settings. 

“I’m interested in the symbolic and material resources that allow individuals to be resilient in the midst of profound vulnerability, uncertainty, risk and trauma,” she said.

Jerry Miller, interim director of the School of Communication Studies, said, “Dr. Harter is a dedicated scholar who enjoys learning with and mentoring her students. Lynn's style of teaching and research is personable and firm, inspirational and rigorous. I am proud to have her as a colleague."